Upon Knightly Rivalries and Their Origins, Part II
Date: Tue, February 01, 2005
A background and overview of the history of the Knights of the Watch, their conflicts, and their future...
Upon Knightly Rivalries and Their Origins, Part Two
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“It has been noted quite often that the orders of knighthood share many rivalries and feuds with each other and with other groups, although there has been little explanation of why these conflicts exist. Quite likely, the origins of these rivalries extend back to their founding in the Flanaess, and their revelation proves once again that there are two sides to every conflict; that peoples and nations supposedly viewed as good can turn on each other just as can the forces of evil; and that one should beware when assigning the term of "good" or "evil" to any given situation in the Flanaess.” – The Brother of the Cruel Summer.
This order of knights was created in the early 300s CY by the king of Keoland and the nobles of Gran March, who sought to defend themselves against incursions from the Brazen Horde that occupied Ket at the time. It established and manned many fortresses and keeps along the border between Ket and Bissel, and it set itself up across the Sheldomar Valley, protecting the inhabitants against not only the “degenerate filth” that lived in the Baklunish West, but also many humanoids, giants and other threats to the peace of the Sheldomar.
The knighthood was also involved in enforcing the ambitions and creeds of the Keoish throne and nobility, being involved in the Battle of Gorna between Keoland and Geoff and the Short War with Furyondy. There were even whispers that some of the Knights supported the coup attempt by Count Granus of Pregmere on the Grand Duchy of Geoff. They could and would also take action against elves, halflings and Flan anywhere within the Sheldomar Valley when it could, leading to antagonism between the Watch and the people of the Ulek states. More recently, they have entrenched themselves in the government of Gran March, with the disappearance of Commandant Petros.
The rivalry between the Knights of the Watch and the demihumans and human Baklunish and Flan inhabitants of the Sheldomar needs little explanation. The Knights of the Watch were founded as an organization made to defend the Sheldomar against invasions from the Baklunish West, and so its members always take a dim view of anyone of Baklunish descent, regardless of whether this perception is justified or not.
The Flan, the original inhabitants of the Sheldomar, were greatly weakened by the evil of the lich-king Vecna before the time of the Migrations. When the Oeridians and Sueloise came during the time of the Great Migrations, they had a great advantage against the Flan in whose lands they wished to settle. Various battles with the Flan took place until many Flan peoples were forced to flee, or take treaty with the Keoish. The Knights of the March, precursor to the Knights of the Watch, were among the leading forces in the battles the Keoish fought against the Flan, and the modern order continues to battle the wandering Flan groups that still dwell on the fringes of Keoland and in the wilder areas of the Sheldomar.
The elves and halflings have a similar history with the Watch. They too suffered at the hands of Vecna. Many elves withdrew deeper into the forests and distant meadows they called home, closing their doors to the Keoish, while many halflings pledged allegiance to the new lords of the land. Those demihumans dwelling in the Duchy and County of Ulek would rebel against Keoish imperialism, and the Knights of the Watch were among those they had to fight when the King of Keoland struck against them. The mutual disdain that the Watchmen and demihumans of the County and Duchy share comes from these battles, where the knights’ traditional battle tactics and arms were thwarted by the cowardly and effete (as the knights saw them) tactics of the people of the Uleks.
Today, very real and great progress has been made in strengthening the civil rights of demihumans, women and the Baklunish and Flan in the Sheldomar Valley, much of it encouraged by the common people and King Kimbertos Skotti, the first Keoish king in centuries who has not come from the old guard nobility. However, many elements of society, most vocally the old nobility but also many commoners, resist these changes, and retain their old habits in dealing with these groups. This fracture in the societies of the Sheldomar nations, especially Keoland, has the Knights of the Watch and their traditions as one of its main sources.
Apart from the Uleks, the Grand Duchy of Geoff also has chill relations with the Knights of the Watch. Apart from the rumors of Watch support for old Count Granus and his instigation of the Geoff civil war of the late 490s CY, the Watchmen have never been fond of the strong Flan presence in the government and society of Geoff, nor of its general state of racial harmony and mutual friendship that the inhabitants share. As a result, even the Yeomanry, which owes no loyalty whatever to Keoland, received more aid from the Watch during the Greyhawk Wars against the giant invasions of the 580s.
The rivalry with the Knights of the Hart has an interesting background. Both orders were created to defend their realms from foreign invaders, and both served admirably in these respects. Both also acted in fulfilling their governments’ wishes. It was in these dual roles that the Knights of the Watch clashed with the Knights of the Hart; the Watch took part in the invasions of Veluna and fought against the Knights of the Hart who came from Furyondy to liberate their brethren. The Short War between Furyondy and Keoland led to the birth of Veluna’s branch of the Knights of the Hart, which acted primarily to defend against raids and attacks from Bissel, Gran March and Keoland, in addition to all the other threats that existed.
The modern Knights of the Watch recall with bitter shame the tactical incompetence and embarrassing defeat of their forebears in the Short War, which saw Keoland banished from Velunese soil. The success of the Knights of the Hart in war and battle, and the recent string of failures attributed to the Knights of the Watch (especially their embarrassing defeat by the forces of Ket occupying Bissel) during the Greyhawk Wars is a bitter pill for the Watch to swallow.
In the modern era, the Knights of the Watch have seen their defeat by the decidedly non-military citizens of the County and Duchy of Ulek (in the Ulek rebellion); the secession of the Yeomanry from Keoland; a series of sharp checks at the hands of nomadic Flan nations inhabiting the Sheldomar Valley; serious losses against the giants invading the western Sheldomar; and a major defeat against the forces of Ket invading Bissel during the Greyhawk Wars.
Most of Bissel has been assimilated into Ket, with even non-Baklunish Bisselites converting en masse to Baklunish religions. What little is left of Bissel seems likely to collapse and be absorbed by Gran March or the demihumans of the surrounding hills before long. This is a cause for much lament and sorrow among the Knights of the Watch.
On the other hand, the Knights of the Watch have also enjoyed several major victories in the Greyhawk Wars, most particularly against their traditional foes in the Rushmoors and the western forests; and they played an integral part in defending Sterich, standing out at the Siege of Istivin (583 CY). They are also moving to reinforce the dwarves of the Principality of Ulek against the hordes of Turrosh Mak in the Pomarj, and many of the younger knights in Ulek have already been cited for valor by the leaders of the order.
In short, the Knights of the Watch, while they have suffered several humiliating defeats in the past few centuries, seem to be turning a corner. Older members of the order are dying and retiring and bright, new young men take their place. Many of the old elite, these young Watchmen say, grew comfortable in their positions and predictable in their tactics. The new era of the Knights of the Watch, they claim, will not make the same mistakes.